JO706 Digital Toolkit

Teaching Guide, fall '18

Peter Smith
Senior Lecturer
617 548 0109

ClassSaturday September 8 and 159 - 5Rm 217
Saturday September 229 - 5Rm 209
Office hoursMonday11 - 1Rm B33
Wednesday11- 1 Rm B33
Lab hoursFriday1 - 3Rm B31
Friday 2 - 5Rm B27



This bootcamp on visual journalism will prepare you for advanced photo, broadcast and online courses by providing the fundamental skills needed to use digital media in your reporting.

As you build your skills, in a step-by-step approach, use the syllabus and attached links to review technique, procedures, workflow, assignment goals and deliverables. Independent learning is a feature of this class, and one that will help increase retention of course material.

We meet for three full Saturdays on September 8, 15, and 22. Six hours of Friday labs are  required – students must attend a minimum of two hours per week. The labs are a key element of this course to answer questions, resolve problems and to interact with our teaching team for valuable feedback. Projects are due at the end of lab periods.

Laptop and external HD:

Before you arrive to class, be sure to have a laptop that meets COM’s recommended specifications. This link also has a guide to help you choose an external hard drive. Make sure that your external hard drive is formatted to either Mac or Windows depending on your laptop type. Mac external hard drives should be formatted to ‘journaled.’

Adobe Creative Cloud:

You will need to download Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Lightroom for this course.  You can download them once you sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud using your Kerberos username and password. This must be completed at least two days before the first class meeting.

Check out gear for class:

9/8 – Canon DSLR, three lens kit,
9/15 – Canon DSLR, three lens kit, tripod, Zoom F5 audio recorder
9/22 – Canon DSLR, three lens kit, tripod, Zoom F5 audio recorder, lav. mic

Day one, Saturday, Sept.8, Meet in room 217

Today we will cover the basics of digital photography and photo editing. You will also pick a partner and a support team to work with throughout the course, and select an afternoon workshop location in room 211 with Nikita or in room 214 with DengFeng. The instructor will also be available to help in both labs.

We will cover:

Camera set-up

Using camera’s light meter and understanding the Exposure Triangle
Composition and rule of thirds
White Balance
Focusing your camera

Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual settings
Freezing action
Panning action

shooting exercise  |  11:00 – 1:00 p.m.  |  on the front lawn

Assignment One, Portraits, 10 points
Shoot the following 10 images of your partner.   Use rule of thirds.
Shoot a set of required photographs to practice photo skills.

Location one: an establishing wide shot, head to foot; use good lighting and interesting background. Use a 50mm or 20mm lens, keep horizon straight.  Make sure subject separates (pops) well in shade or sunlight. Deliverables – two photos.

    • location two: Depth-of-Field, 6 feet away, shoot at F2.8 and F16, transpose shutter and aperture for correct exposure.  Use 50mm lens, shoot in shade or sunlight with good lighting and interesting background. Deliverables – two photos.

    • location three: shoot three portraits – in shade, in direct sunlight, and in doors. Use good lighting and plain background. Deliverables – three photos.

    • location four: shoot three action photos of subject walking up or down steps, going through a door, etc. Use good lighting, strong composition. Deliverables – three photos.

lunch |  1:00 – 2:00 p.m.  |  with your partner

Lunch from 1-2pm with your partner. This will be a good opportunity to get to know your partner and to get background information for your profile story.

  • photo review  |  2:00 – 2:30 p.m.  |  room 217
    Q+A on camera operation and photo assignment requirements
    Review media management and pointer files.
    Drag and drop source media files to project folder from SD cards
    File all photo assignments to a Photos folders, create subfolders for assignments
    Create a project folder for each movie assignment

photo edit |  2:30 – 5:00 p.m.  |  room 214 or 211

Use the following naming convention and filing hierarchy for Lightroom.

Editing in Adobe Lightroom

Import raw files to Adobe Lightroom to:

manage your media files, make adjustments, tag and caption, and export jpgs

  • Drag/drop your files from your afternoon photo workshop to your Portrait Folder into your Photos folder. Also add an Export Folder to your Photos Folder.

  • Open Lightroom, create a catalog inside your Photos Folder, import files, add metadata

  • Use a series of Star Edits to select your 10 best photos

  • Make adjustments, add captions, export photos, upload to Smugmug class site

Ten images are due for this project – one point per photo for a total of ten points.   The photos are due at the end of class. Students may leave after upload. Photos will be graded on proof of concept, sharpness, composition, toning and caption. Weight: 40% concept, 40% aesthetic, 20% caption.


Assignment two – Busking in Boston or Cambridge – 10 points
due: in lab on 9/14.

The requirements for this assignment are:

  • Document Busking in Boston – or Cambridge.  Park Street station, Downtown Crossing, the Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, and Harvard Square are all busking hot spots.

  • Visit the area and spend at least three hours there. The purpose of spending a minimum of three hours shooting your assignment is to ensure you capture a variety of images and lighting conditions. Shoot when the sun is low for best results. If you shoot at night, use a tripod.

  • Photograph portraits, action, reaction, crowd shots from a variety of angles

  • Requirements

    • shoot 10 horizontal images, use 16×9 aspect ratio

    • fast shutter speed – find action shots

    • depth-of-field – blur background with wide aperture

    • shoot wide, medium and tight shots – variety is required

    • good use of color, exposure, lighting, composition

    • proper caption writing – answer who, when, where and why

    • write captions in present tense and use facts, not opinion

Day Two, Saturday 9/15

Video lecture   |  9 – 11 am  |  room 217

On day two we will cover the basics of shooting video, audio recording, and editing on Adobe Premiere.

We will cover:

  • Camera video settings

  • 1080px24fps, use 1/50 for shutter speed

    • Picture quality – contrast, sharpness, saturation

    • White Balance

  • Shoot b-roll, learn to create sequence

  • Shooting for continuity

  • Basics of audio recording on a Zoom H5 Setup

    • Built in mic, adjusting audio input level, mic placement

  • Media management and editing using Adobe Premiere Pro

audio plus B-roll workshop   |  11 – 1 pm  |  on the COM lawn

Use teamwork to find an interesting action to document.  Capture people waiting for the train, ordering food, reading a book, eating lunch at the BU beach, working out, etc. You must also capture a one-minute audio interview of subject explaining the activity they are involved in. Ask subject for id. by asking, ‘who are you and where are you from?’ You will need to edit the audio to 30 seconds to match your b-roll sequence.

  • Audio requirements: proper gain, proper mic placement, crisp soundbites, ‘nat’ sound, ambient sound
  • Shoot wide, medium, tight, and close-up shots from a variety of angles  

  • Use 180 degree rule

  • Shoot for continuity

  • Use good color, strong composition

  • Work in teams and share files

  • Use tripod for at least one shot

lunch   |  1-2 pm  |  with your partner, conduct pre-interview

lecture on adobe premiere   |  2-3:30 pm  |  room 217

Use the following naming convention and filing hierarchy:

Learn to edit in Adobe Premiere 

Read Adobe Premiere Tutorial

Learn how to start your project, use editing tools, set in/out points, add interview clips to project, add b-roll clips to project,  adjust sound and export movie.

Premiere editing lab   |  3:30-5 pm  |  room 211 or room 214

Edit a 30-second sequence of action using four to five clips with edited interview – 20 points

Due at end of lab today

Assignment three, Neighborhood Project – 30 points

due: in lab on Friday, 9/21

For this assignment you will document a neighborhood and produce a photo-essay of seven well edited shots that show a variety of angles and situations.

Pick a Boston neighborhood. Spend at least four hours on location with partner to gather b-roll of your partner shooting a photo essay. Here is a checklist of elements to include:

  • Shoot a variety of images – wide, medium, tight shots and close-up

  • Shoot portraits, interaction, action, reaction, a scene setter, unique situations
  • Capture light from shooting two distinctly different times of day

Go on this assignment with your partner so they can film b-roll of you working in the field for the final project. Your partner will work to building sequences of you to use in their final assignment. You and your partner may document the same neighborhood.

Day Three, Saturday 9/22

lecture on profile story   |  9-11 pm  |  room 209

We will cover ‘the art of the interview’ and advanced audio/video concepts.

  • How to frame and setup interview using natural light with fill, and good background, how to align camera to adjust framing and background

  • 180 degree rule

  • Two-camera interview shoot

  • Types of questions to ask/avoid

  • Ask open ended and follow up questions

  • Ask subject to explain and describe

  • Create shot list after interview. Identify opportunities to capture visuals unique to your story.

The power of the anecdote – by Ira Glass.  Let your subject tell a story

Conduct interview, then critique, set up in classroom 209

shoot  Interview |  11-1 pm  |  workshop

We will break out so you can interview your partner- look for story arc. You can work with a second team if you like to add crew and gear.

Remembers to:

  • clap to create audio spike for syncing

  • Record ‘nat’ sound and room noise

  • Pick a storytelling background

  • Use rule of thirds

  • Ask subject to id self

  • Ask ‘where are you from and why are you here?’

Lunch   |  1-2 pm  |  with partner

Editing in Premiere  |  2-3 pm  |  room 209

How to:

  • Multicam editing
  • Multiple-Cam Editing
  • Transcribe interview and select best soundbites

  • sync external audio and two-camera interview

  • Add transitions and lower thirds

  • Adjust audio and color

  • Export settings

Editing lab   |  3-5 pm  |  room 211 or room 214

30 second interview, 00 points

  • Editing a 30-40 second interview with two-camera shot and external audio

  • Start by transcribing interview

  • Highlight best soundbites in Google Docs.

  • Select in/out points and add clips to timeline

  • Add ‘nat sound’ and room noise

  • Adjust audio levels in Adobe Premiere Pro

    • What is an ideal decibel range for interview sound, ‘Nat’ sound, music

    • Use the Pen tool and keyframes to raise and dip audio in segments

  • Adjust color

  • Add transitions and titles

  • Export movie

Assignment four – 40 points

due: 9/28 in lab

Produce a two-minute multimedia story of your partner.

  • Ask your subject, “why do you want to be a journalist?”

  • Use character building anecdote to show unique perspective
  • Use two-camera setup, plus external audio from Zoom recorder

  • Strong b-roll sequences are essential – a minimum of three sequences required

  • Include ‘Nat’ Sound and room noise

  • Framing and storytelling backgrounds are important.

  • Add transitions and credits

  • Adjust color and sound

  • Open your film with a ‘poster’ and not a black frame. The poster must include your own name and the title of your film.

Final check list:

Sound: Capture ‘room noise’ after interview. Copy/paste this sound to extend space between soundbites.
Sound: Capture ‘nat sound’ to create a sound postcard to help viewer become part of the scene.
Focus:  After focusing on shot, use plus button to zoom in to make sure the focus is sharp.
Focus: Think where the focus needs to be. It’s usually on your subject’s eyes>
Stability: Don’t use shaky shots. Play it back to see if it’s smooth. If not, keep shooting.
Stability: Use a tripod, or hold still. Use tension from camera strap to stabilize.
Stability: For hand held shots, shoot with wide focal length like 35mm.
Stability: Turn on stabilizer on camera lens, and or, use stabilizing feature on your clip in Premiere.

Course Deliverables:

  • Portrait Photos (best 10 shots)  10 pts. | Due: Saturday, Sept. 8, at 5:00

  • Busking in Boston (best 10 shots) 10 pts. |  Due: Friday, Sept. 14, at 5:00

  • B-roll Sequence (20 seconds) 10 pts.  | Due: Saturday, Sept. 15, at 5:00pm

  • Neighborhood Photo Essay (7 shots) 30%    | Due: Friday, Sept. 21, at 5:00

  • Profile story (2 minutes) 40%   | Due: Friday, Sept. 28 at 5 pm.

Class Prep

Hardware requirements – provided by grad students:

  • LaCie rugged hard drive (2-4 Terabytes) or equivalent – a smaller drive is okay if budget is tight.

  • 32-64gb, class-10 SD card for DSLR

  • 4-16 gig sd card for audio recorder

  • two AA batteries for Zoom audio recorder for back-up

  • reporter’s notebook.

Recommended:  Apple Powerbook with current OS, 8-16 gigs ram.

Reading/ viewing:

MediaStorm Field Guide to Powerful Multimedia Storytelling.

Available on ibooks and can be viewed on a Mac with an app., top stories and opinion pages – find stories from a wide political spectrum.

The Killer App

Voices from ‘Hijabi World

NY Times Lens Blog – Look at ‘Pictures of the week’  and four other pieces.

Ira Glass on: Story Arc

Terry Gross Asks Questions for a Narrative Arc

Student Work

Bobby the Pig by Scott Eisen (PW515)

The Greek Billionaire by Justin Saglio (PW515)

On Black Hair and Beauty by Sarah Toy (PW706)

PK – Relaxing With A Racing Heart

Two camera shoot with external audio
Nikita on video,

Jose on being a grip


You can borrow the following gear from FPS

  • T3i canon DSLR kit

  • Three prime lens kit (20, 50 and 100mm)

  • Zoom audio recorder kit

  • Lavalier mic

  • Tripod


Technical, creative and storytelling outcomes


   • shoot storytelling photographs to industry standard

   • shoot well framed, well exposed, sharp pictures with clean color

   • understand the basics of light and moment

Photo Editing:

   • learn effective workflow, image editing, caption writing, copyright and tags

Media Management:

   • Learn effective methods of organizing your media – images, video clips and audio.

Video Shooting:

   • shoot well-produced interviews and B-Roll

   • conduct well mic’d interview on camera


   • capture important soundbites and ‘nat’ sound with proper gain and well positioned mic

Audio Editing:

   • sequence, adjust and trim clips

Video Editing:

   • transcribe interview, create paper edit

   • understand basics of video editing

   ⁃ edit project in timeline, add b-roll, transitions, titles and lower thirds

   ⁃ create strong storytelling b-roll sequences

   ⁃ adjust sound, add ‘nat’ sound, color grade

   • create a master HD Quicktime movie

   • compress video to H.264 and publish online

Story Telling Outcomes:

   • understanding importance of strong visuals and compelling interview

   • tailor story for your audience

   • hold an audience attention

   • effective story arc

General Grading Policy

A          Excellent work that meets or exceeds the requirements. Work reflects solid research, skilled interviews, is accurate, has proper attribution, conforms to industry standard; multimedia elements (video, photos, audio, interactive) are sharp, focused, clear, appropriately edited, properly captioned, tagged and credited. Could be published as is, or with very minor edits.

B         Good work with a few errors. May contain minor problem with focus, spelling/grammar, style, balance, organization; several multimedia elements are subpar (out of focus, poor sound quality, etc.) or exhibit one or two technical glitches. Could be published with some editing.

C         Average work. Failed to meet some of the requirements of the assignment. Shows lack of news judgment, accuracy, balance, etc., technical errors, subpar multimedia elements, poor selection of interactive elements. Could only be published with significant editing or a complete overhaul.

D        Below average work that shows little or no understanding of the requirements of the assignment, numerous grammatical, style errors, major factual errors and failure to use assigned technology and tools properly.

F (0-59.9)        Failure to turn in by deadline or significantly flawed work.

The National Press Photographers Association: NPPA

The National Press Photographers Association, a professional society that promotes the highest standards in visual journalism, acknowledges concern for every person’s need both to be fully informed about public events and to be recognized as part of the world in which we live.

Visual journalists operate as trustees of the public. Our primary role is to report visually on the significant events and varied viewpoints in our common world. Our primary goal is the faithful and comprehensive depiction of the subject at hand. As visual journalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its history through images.

Photographic and video images can reveal great truths, expose wrongdoing and neglect, inspire hope and understanding and connect people around the globe through the language of visual understanding. Photographs can also cause great harm if they are callously intrusive or are manipulated.

This code is intended to promote the highest quality in all forms of visual journalism and to strengthen public confidence in the profession. It is also meant to serve as an educational tool both for those who practice and for those who appreciate photojournalism. To that end, The National Press Photographers Association sets forth the following.


Visual journalists and those who manage visual news productions are accountable for upholding the following standards in their daily work:

1.   Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.

2.   Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.

3.   Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.

4.   Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.

5.   While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.

6.   Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.

7.   Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.

8.   Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.

9.   Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.

10.Do not engage in harassing behavior of colleagues, subordinates or subjects and maintain the highest standards of behavior in all professional interactions.

Ideally, visual journalists should:

1.   Strive to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public. Defend the rights of access for all journalists.

2.   Think proactively, as a student of psychology, sociology, politics and art to develop a unique vision and presentation. Work with a voracious appetite for current events and contemporary visual media.

3.   Strive for total and unrestricted access to subjects, recommend alternatives to shallow or rushed opportunities, seek a diversity of viewpoints, and work to show unpopular or unnoticed points of view.

4.   Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one’s own journalistic independence.

5.   Strive to be unobtrusive and humble in dealing with subjects.

6.   Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.

7.   Strive by example and influence to maintain the spirit and high standards expressed in this code. When confronted with situations in which the proper action is not clear, seek the counsel of those who exhibit the highest standards of the profession. Visual journalists should continuously study their craft and the ethics that guide it.

Percentage-based Grade Scale

A: 93-100

B+: 87-89.99

C+: 77-79.99

D: 60-69.99

F: 0-59.99

A-: 90-92.99

B: 83-86.99

C: 73- 76.99


B-: 80-82.99

C-: 70-72.99


GPA conversion





















Class Policies
How to Get an ‘A’ in This Course

•    Be here each week, on time, ready to engage.

•   Complete all reading and assignments on time.

•   Exceed expectations!

•   Participate in class and any online discussions.

•    You get extra credit for: being enthusiastic, inquisitive, and open to learning new things.

•   Think ahead. Anticipate upcoming requirements such as BU News Service assignments and the final project. Structure your time to do your best work.

Please restrict unrelated internet browsing, e-mailing, texting or other unassigned online activity during class. When we have guest speakers, please, no loud typing. Tweet, yes, but be discreet about it so as not to distract our guests and the rest of the class. Points will be deducted for spelling and grammatical errors.

Professionalism You will be called on to critique the work of your classmates and occasionally discuss ethical issues. There may be times when you disagree with another students’ comments. You will be expected to deal honestly but professionally with your classmates and the instructor of this course.

In addition to the assigned reading, you should read and watch “traditional” news in order to be able to discuss and analyze differences between the mediums.

Class Attendance
 You are expected to be in class each week, on time. Roll will be taken. If you are ill or must miss a class for another reason, please alert me as soon as possible BEFORE class via email (preferably) or text. If you have an illness or emergency, which can be documented, your absence will be excused. However, you will be expected to complete any assignments that you missed during your excused absence. Missed assignments are due by the next class. Multiple unexcused absences will affect your final grade.

Late Assignments
 Deadlines are a key concept in journalism. If you miss a deadline in the real world you might lose your job. Get used to filing assignments on time. Unexcused late assignments will not be accepted in this class. Grades are based on quality, content, and punctuality of work submitted.  Late assignments lose one grade (A to B) for each week they are late. Assignments that are not turned in receive zero credit. The final grade is an average of all grades received during the semester. Assignments are DUE at the end of class.

BU policy on recording in classes

Please note that classroom proceedings for this course might be recorded for purposes including, but not limited to, student illness, religious holidays, disability accommodations, or student course review. Note also that recording devices are prohibited in the classroom except with the instructor’s permission.


BU has strict guidelines on classroom behavior and practices when it comes to treatment of students and guests on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability, genetic information, military service, national origin, or due to marital, parental, or veteran status. Discrimination for any of these reasons is prohibited. Please refer to the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy for more details.


If you are a student with a disability or believe you might have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 617-353-3658 to coordinate any reasonable accommodation requests. ODS is located at 19 Deerfield Street, up on the second floor.


All student-athletes should be provided with a sheet from Student-Athlete Support Services regarding absences throughout the semester. These sheets should be handed in as soon as possible to avoid potential conflicts and so arrangements can be made to provide for missed lecture notes, classwork, or discussion.

Plagiarism and Fabrication

The College of Communication rules on plagiarism is applicable to this course.


“Plagiarism is the act of representing another person’s creative and/or academic work as your own, in full, or in part. It can be an act of commission, in which one intentionally appropriates the words, pictures, or ideas of another, or it can be an act of omission, in which one fails to acknowledge/document/give credit to the source, creator and/or the copyright owner of those words, pictures, or ideas. Any fabrication of materials, quotes or sources other than those created in a work of fiction is also plagiarism. Plagiarism is the most serious academic offense that you can commit and can result in probation, suspension, or expulsion.”

Academic Code of Conduct

Be sure to read and comply with Boston University’s Universal Academic Conduct Code for undergraduate students.  It is available at:   Recording of Classes Statement Please note that classroom proceedings for this course might be recorded for purposes including, but not limited to, student illness, religious holidays, disability accommodations, or student course review. Note also that recording devices are prohibited in the classroom except with the instructor’s permission.

JO706 PDF syllabusJO706fall18